Rolled Up Like a Douche: "Blinded by the Light" Explained
A few years ago, my band took a trip up the east coast to play some shows in and around New York City. One of the stops was in Asbury Park at a club called The Saint. Not more than probably a mile down the road was the Stone Pony, the legendary venue where some great bands got their start including New Jersey's most loved Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (you thought I was going to say Bon Jovi, right?).
For my singer, it was a somewhat mystical experience having grown up a big fan of the Boss. For me, it was another bit of musical history to add to my own. And 39 years ago today, it all got started when the E Street Band released Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ to little popular success but eventual critical acclaim. The album only sold 25,000 copies, but it widely considered one of the great rock records of the '70s.
Oddly enough, the most famous version of the opening track of the record was not recorded by Springsteen. "Blinded by the Light" was turned into a whirling dervish of a prog-pop song by Manfred Mann's Earth Band, who took it to number one on the charts in 1977.
The rapid-fire, beat-poet-style lyrics of "Blinded" are a tribute to Springsteen's youth. In what would become typical Springsteen fashion, the song was a wistful, sarcastic and sentimental look back at his home state, perfectly appropriate for the first song on an album named it and the town where his career began.
What is surprising is just how many of the lyrics are flubbed and misunderstood from this particular song, not to mention how many people just don't get what the hell many of the lyrics mean. Much of the imagery hers is from his youth growing up in AP and many of the references are to actual people.
So, I did some digging and here's a synopsis of what you might be missing.
Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat In the dumps with the mumps as the adolescent pumps his way into his hat
Here, like in the rest of the song, Springsteen is alluding to various moments from childhood summers using a flash of imagery to describe playing with Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez, his original drummer, and his little league team, the Indians, as well as getting sick -- the mumps -- and jerking off.
With a boulder on my shoulder, feelin' kinda older, I tripped the merry-go-round With this very unpleasing sneezing and wheezing, the calliope crashed to the ground
This self referential moment is a shot at his younger know-it-all self with a massive chip on his shoulder.
Cut loose like a deuce, another runner in the night
This is one of the most misunderstood lyrics in music history. The Manfred Mann version says "revved up" instead of "cut loose," but neither say "douche" as many would believe. The Boss is talking about a car -- a deuce coupe -- or some say a motorcycle. Either way, someone was getting revved up and not like a douche.
Some silicone sister with her manager's mister told me I got what it takes She said, "I'll turn you on, sonny, to something strong if you play that song with the funky break"
Springsteen claims this to be the first reference to breast implants in rock music. He's probably right as he talks about typical drunk patrons at a bar -- in this case, a stripper -- in the same way Billy Joel crooned "they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar and say, 'Man, what are you doing here?'" in "Piano Man."
And Go-Cart Mozart was checkin' out the weather chart to see if it was safe to go outside And little Early-Pearly came by in her curly-wurly and asked me if I needed a ride
Go-Cart Mozart was another character from his childhood. "Early-Pearly" is a curly-haired woman on a motorcycle who visits him in the morning and flashes her smile, or pearly whites, at him.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.